I think perhaps the greatest benefit of the “new era” of WWE is the presentation of WWE superstars as legitimate athletes (as opposed to actors in a glorified soap opera). Though the outcomes of their matches are predetermined, professional wrestling requires immense athletic talent and ability. As such, the majority of WWE superstars are some of the greatest athletes in the world who spend several hours every day perfecting their craft.
Despite all this, with most superstars wrestling multiple times a week before a live audience, mistakes inevitably happen. Luckily the majority of these mistakes occur behind scenes or in matches which go relatively unseen by the general public. However, for some superstars, their biggest mistakes occurred when all eyes were on them.
Thereby, this article will list the 15 Wrestling Botches That Everyone Saw. Thus, this list will not only give added importance to botches which were particularly heinous (like Joey Mercury getting his face caved in) but will also highlight those botches which occurred when a lot of people were watching. This requirement breaks down into two further factors. That is, botches which were noticeable by the audience are regarded higher, as are those botches which occurred under the attention of larger audiences. I like to think that highlighting the mistakes of these superstars will not only make for an entertaining read but will also highlight how talented these athletes are that we hold them to such an impeccable standard. All facts and stories related in this article are the direct result of the first-hand knowledge and experiences of the author.
15. Enzo Amore Taken Out By Ropes: Payback
One of the more recent entries on our list, the botched move at Payback 2015 that led to superstar Enzo Amore getting knocked out cold starts our list at #15. In a tag team matching alongside Big Cass against the Vaudevillains, Amore was in the ring with Simon Gotch when he was thrown through the ropes and out onto the floor. This issue, however, is that on his way out Enzo’s head smacked off the bottom rope, knocking him unconscious. Medical staff was rushed out, and Amore would make a full recovery. Most wrestling experts claimed the incident was a freak accident, however, there has been a noticeable lack of TV time for the Vaudevillians recently, leading me to speculate that this incident helped lead to their downfall.
14. “World’s Strongest Push”: Raw
As you will see later in this list, entries are graded higher for botches that occurred when a lot of fans were watching. While this usually occurs because of additional viewers due to a pay per view event, it can also mean that the botch was just so obvious that anyone watching would instantly know if for what it was. Such is the case for the 14th entry on this list. As on a 2010 edition of Raw, what was supposed to be a strong push by Mark Henry sending Batista into the mat turned into Mark lightly touching Batista, and him doing a delayed awkward half backflip unto the mat. If it wasn’t obvious enough in full speed, you can truly appreciate the hilarity of this botch when you watch it in slow motion.
13. Seth Rollins Breaks Cena’s Nose: Raw
A picture is worth a thousand words? I can think of one word to describe the picture above, “gross”. This picture was the aftermath of one of the more recent botches on our list, which occurred in the main event of Monday Night Raw in 2015. Challenging for the World Title at the upcoming pay-per-view, Cena was scheduled to battle the champion Seth Rollins in a non-title match. Using a routine knee to the face, Rollins accidentally crashed into Cena’s nose, causing severe breakage. The incident was immediately noticeable, with blood pouring out of Cena’s nose unto the ringside. While Rollins is a master of his craft, this incident and others like it have caused criticism of his wrestling style by not only pundits, but also those within the industry like Bret Hart.
12. Goldberg Superkicks Bret Hart: Starrcade
While most of the botches on this list are merely for entertainment purposes, some of them had truly devastating impacts on the superstars involved. Though there is some argument on the degree to which it caused Bret Hart’s retirement, the fact is that the botched superkick inflicted on him by Goldberg at Starrcade 1999 was at least partially responsible for shortening the career of the Excellence of Execution. Never an in-ring maestro, this was certainly not the finest moment of Goldberg’s career, and he has admitted that this botched attempt at one of wrestling’s simplest moves is his greatest regret in his professional career. By actually kicking Hart in this face (Bret was 42 at the time), Goldberg gave him a concussion which (due to other circumstances) eventually ended his career.
11. Randy Orton RKO Second Try: Raw
One great part of wrestling is how a performer will become so synonymous with their finishing maneuver. From Ric Flair’s figure four leglock, to Bret Hart’s sharpshooter, to Goldberg’s spear, superstars moves often become an integral part of their character and storylines. Perhaps nowhere has this become more apparent than with Randy Orton and the RKO. A sort of modified stunner, the RKO has become a pop-culture sensation, with hundreds of videos across Youtube of amazing and edited RKO’s. Despite his overall mastery of this devastating finishing move, not all Orton’s RKOs are perfect.
Perhaps the worst example of this occurred on Raw when Orton was still part of the group Evolution. Randy was supposed to RKO Chris Jericho while he had his opponent in his own finishing move, the Walls of Jericho. However, there was some miscommunication and Jericho didn’t sell the move, causing Orton to simply flop unto his back. But showing the persistence which would eventually make him a first ballot Hall of Famer, Orton simply got up and tried the move again. The video, posted above, is definitely worth a watch.
10. Shelton Benjamin Off the Ropes: Backlash
Our next great WWE botch proves that botches can happen to even the best superstars. Anyone who watched wrestling in the early 2000’s knows what a phenomenal athlete and wrestler Shelton Benjamin is. Perhaps the most athletically gifted superstar ever, Benjamin would habitually dazzle us with such feats as famously running up a prone ladder during the first ever Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 21. While that moment likely tops his highlight reel, the incident that happened here on Raw surely did not. While attempting to jump off the rope, Benjamin’s feet slipped causing him to fall into the ring on his face. This was notable for the purposes of this list not only because it was in a Raw main event, but also because the entire crowd was at the time totally focused on Benjamin (in anticipation of another dazzling move) when he had perhaps his biggest flop. In this way, Benjamin’s penchant for dazzling us only highlights his memorable botch, and puts it squarely on this list at #10.
9. Cena Falls Through Table: TLC
While the #12 entry ended the career of one famous WWE superstar, you could argue that the following entry jumpstarted another great wrestlers career. At the 2009 TLC event, John Cena faced the powerful Irish newcomer Sheamus in a tables match for the WWE Championship. Many expected (including WWE Creative) that Cena would retain the title, thus vanquishing another powerful foe and adding to his “Super Cena” moniker. At the climax of the match, Cena was supposed to superplex Sheamus through a table setup in the ring, however, both superstars lost their footing, causing Cena to fall backwards breaking the table. The referee for the match, doing his job, signaled the matches end and rewarded Sheamus his first ever title in WWE. Since then the Great White has won the title multiple times, thus becoming perhaps the greatest ever beneficiary of a botched move.
8. Joey Mercury Horrific Ladder Injury: Armageddon
This is the only entry on this list which truly made me cringe. In a hectic fatal 4-way tag team ladder match, Joey Mercury received a devastating injury which caused him to have reconstructive surgery on many parts of his face. Partway through the match (which in its whole was highly entertaining) the team of Johnny Nitro and Joey Mercury (MNM) were dueling with tag team veterans the Hardy brothers. During a stunt which involved Jeff Hardy jumping on one end of a ladder, causing the other end to shoot up teeter totter style, knocking around both members of MNM and his own brother; Mercury was actually struck full force in the ladder. The cameramen instantly zoomed in on all three recipients, with Mercury obviously being the most noticeable. The multiple time Tag-team Champion’s face was a mask of blood. Without getting too in-depth (video included above) Mercury looked like a Picasso painting and it is amazing to me that he was ever able to return to the ring as a member of J and J Security.
7. Batista Bomb? Summerslam
Recently many WWE fans have turned on potential company top guy Roman Reigns. These fans claim that Reigns simply doesn’t have the talking or in-ring skills that other superstars have, and that he is only getting such a substantial push because he has “the look” that WWE execs look for in their main event talent. These arguments strike me as odd, not because I disagree with any of their points, but because this seems to exemplify exactly what happened with the push of Batista to WWE mega-superstar in 2005. While certainly an imposing figure, Batista’s mic skills were never top notch, and as this entry will show, his in-ring work also left much to be desired. A perfect example of his wrestling struggles occurred in a high profile SummerSlam match with King Booker. Meaning to end the match with a Batista Bomb, Batista picked up Booker, only to drop him back to the mat.
Ever the professional, Booker did an awkward move where he readjusted his legs back unto Batista’s shoulders, where Batista would then successful implement the moves for a pinfall victory. While Booker was attempting to help his less adept cohort here, it was obvious what was happening and is simply the most obvious example of why Batista was pushed more for his “look” than his actual wrestling skills.
6. Owen Hart Breaks Stone Colds Neck: Summerslam
One of the most famous entries on our list, it may also be one of the scariest. With the attitude era still in full swing, Owen Hart was at the climax of his heel push and was scheduled in a match against perennial heavyweight Stone Cold Steve Austin. Those of you familiar with Hart’s work (that would be Bret’s younger brother), will remember that he uses a standard piledriver as his finishing maneuver. However, on this night, Austin was held too low in the hold with the crown of his head too low on Hart’s torso. Because of that, when Hart completed his maneuver Austin’s head hit the mat with jarring force, actually breaking the rattlesnakes neck. Austin would later admit that he was partially paralyzed following this hit, which was obvious from the fact that he was barely able to roll up Hart for the eventual win. As such, this scary botch only added to the legacy of Stone Cold’s toughness in the ring.
5. Punk vs. The Rock, Table Break: Royal Rumble
Each of these entries comes with some sort of sympathy for the superstars involved. Even in those instances where no injury occurred from the botch, it is still hard to not feel something for these professionals who messed up their craft in front of millions of people. Such is not the case with this entry. Though the Rock and CM Punk are both incredibly talented and entertaining individuals, they are also both incredibly arrogant and could probably be benefited from the embarrassment of this botch. During their match for the WWE Title at the 2013 Royal Rumble, during a stunt where Punk was to be “Rock bottomed” through a table, the table gave way from the superstars weight and collapsed under their feet. Rock attempted to do a quick move right before the collapse, but this (perhaps rightfully so) did not totally alleviate this embarrassment of our #5 botch.
4. Royal Rumble Double Winner: Royal Rumble
Remember when John Cena and Batista were the young superstars that fans rabidly wanted to get their “one shot” at the title? Such was the case at the 2005 Royal Rumble where Cena and Batista had become the rising stars of their respective brand. As such, it was only fitting that they were the last two superstars left in the Rumble when our #4 WWE botch occurred. Batista was scheduled to win the Rumble clean, eliminating Cena before going on to headline WrestleMania against current World Heavyweight Champion Triple H. However, when Batista went to eliminate Cena, his foot got caught in the rope, causing them to both tumble over the edge hitting the floor at the same time. Now obviously you can’t have two Royal Rumble winners (until WWE decides to change this rule), so someone had to sort this out. Leading us to the #1 entry on our list that is just around the corner!
3. Papa Shango Misses His Cue: WrestleMania
While the other entries on this list are certainly embarrassing, at least they come with the asterisk that professional wrestling is an incredibly difficult tasks, and with superstars performing up to three times a week, mistakes are bound to happen. This next entry, however, would be embarrassing in any setting. Leading up to WrestleMania 8, the plan was for resident Shaman Papa Shango to interrupt the main event between Sycho Sid and Hulk Hogan, leading to the return of the Ultimate Warrior to save Hogan. The issue with this, however, was that Shango missed his cue to come out, thus entering the match at a time that didn’t really fit with the storyline. Instead of entering as Hogan was pinning Sidd (as was supposed to happen), Shango entered a few moments later, causing Sidd to have to kick out of Hogan finishing move. The rest of the storyline managed to go off without a hitch, so Shango’s mistake can be forgiven by the fans at least. But it is worth noting that WWE management never got behind him the villain the way it had prior to this memorable botch.
2. Lesnar Misses Shooting Star Press: WrestleMania
Perhaps no superstar has entered the world of professional wrestling with such an immense impact as Brock Lesnar did with his debut in 2000. An impressive physical specimen, Lesnar was also highly athletic and had been a two-time national champion collegiate wrestler. During his run with Smackdown, Lesnar relied heavily on the series of power moves that he still uses to this day (german suplex, F-5). When he was a prospect in Ohio Valley Wrestling, however, Lesnar commonly used a shooting star press off of the top rope. Thereby, with a WrestleMania main event looming in 2003 Lesnar and WWE Creative sought to use this move in his highly publicized match, to horrific results. Lesnar would miss the landing on his move, landing on his neck and the back of his head. Lesnar later admitted that this move knocked him unconscious, and it is obvious for the rest of the match that Lesnar was seeing stars. The only reason this hugely watched botch is not number one on our list is due to the immense difficulty of this move, especially for someone of Lesnar’s size. However, the sheer magnitude of the moment when this botch occurred keeps it from being any lower than #2 on our list.
1. McMahon Tears Both His Hamstrings: Royal Rumble
With the snafu that was the conclusion of the 2005 Royal Rumble (mentioned above), Vince McMahon felt the need to go down to the ring himself to address this issue. Before coming down, VKM conceivable developed a plan where the Royal Rumble would be restarted (just the final two entrants) and then Batista would proceed to eliminate Cena as planned. The problem with this, however, is that on his way down to the ring, Vince was in just a little too much of a hurry, and someone managed to tear the muscle in both of his hamstrings. I remember watching this even live with my friends and we just couldn’t figure out why the Hell the Chairman of the WWE was sitting down to make one of the most important announcements in recent WWE memory. It was later revealed what had happened to Vince, however, the awkwardness of the segment and the limelight shined on it by occurring at the Royal Rumble causes us to rank this as the #1 WWE botch that everyone saw.